For four years, Be Forward Wanderers have been pummelled into submission by their age-old rivals Nyasa Big Bullets in the TNM Super League.
And this afternoon, the most-sought after domestic fixture returns to the ceremonial home of local football—Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre—with the Lali Lubani Road outfit hoping to exorcise the ghost that has seen them play second fiddle to their sworn adversaries.
The last time the Nomads beat Bullets in a league match was in July 2012 and out of their nine previous meetings, they have won only once, lost five times while the other three ended in draws.
Four years is quite a long time such that if it were a child born that time, he or she would probably now be in primary school.
During that period, the blue and orange side of town has borne the blunt and suffered the pain of a miserable run. They have been mercilessly taunted and lived through horror so much that the mere mention of the Blantyre derby is a painful reminder of their regular whippings at the hands of their biggest rivals.
There is a feeling though, within the Nomads camp, that this is their golden moment to break the jinx and end Bullets’ good run. They believe that times have changed and, where in their corner stood a group of frightened men, so impotent they wouldn’t frighten a church mouse, now stand lion-hearted men who are pumped up for battle.
Nomads team manager Stevie Madeira believes this could be the turning point and that there won’t be that meek surrender as has been the case in the past four years.
“It has been quite a while since we beat Bullets in the league and this time we are coming up with a strategy that will turn things around.
“We are very determined to break the jinx and this could be it. This match is also important to us because the result will determine whether we can genuinely challenge for the title,” he said.
However, on his part, battle-scarred midfielder Joseph Kamwendo exercised caution, saying: “It is going to be a tough encounter and a different game altogether. So, let us see what happens this time around.”
Wanderers will be boosted by the return of their hitman Peter Wadabwa and his striking partner Jimmy Zakazaka from injuries. Also making a comeback will be their ‘silent assassin’ Jaffalie Chande who is tipped to face his former team.
They are also tipped to showcase their latest Nigerian signings—Ozochukwu Ebuka Fabian and Ayninla Adekola.
On the other hand, Bullets team manager Rahim Ishmael was a model of modesty, playing down suggestions that going by statistics, the scales are tipped in their favour.
“I do not think that there is anything like having an edge, we might have had an upper hand in recent times, but the Blantyre derby is always unpredictable because of the pride that comes with it.
“It is a different game altogether and we cannot afford to underestimate Wanderers based on past meetings. It is going to be a tough match, but we are set for the showdown,” he said.
Bullets captain Chiukepo Msowoya said they are anticipating a tough battle.
The People’s Team will bank their hopes on winger Dalitso Sailesi whose comfort on the ball is so natural as well as new signing Collen Nkhulambe and Muhammad Sulumba.
“We know that Wanderers will come out with their guns blazing because they haven’t beaten us for sometime, but we are determined to win this match so that we get back into the top three,” he said.
It is this unique thing about the Blantyre derby, where there will always be a window of hope for the other team no matter the circumstances, which makes it special and such a drawcard for so many fans.
That the biggest fixture is still attracting such massive interest from its loyal followers and even growing a new base of fans among those who were too young to have seen the likes of Kinnah ‘Electric’ Phiri, Lawrence ‘Lule’ Waya, Chance ‘Vinny’ Gondwe, Jack ‘Africa’ Chamangwana, ‘Senator’ Kennedy Malunga and the late Ricky ‘Mabomba’ Phuka in action, is testimony of its enduring appeal and a demonstration of its unique brand power.
The first round fixture, which ended in a one-all draw, failed to stir the passions and there have been a number of them in recent times—so poor in quality and class—but it still continues to fascinate the fans and it does not destroy the interest in this showdown, but rather, lights up their imagination and pushes them deeper into their fantasy world, where they draw cold comfort from the hallucination that the next one will certainly provide a better package, underlines its grip on the fans.
Bullets are fifth with 33 points whereas the Nomads are eighth with 29 points from the same number of games.